Fall 2024

American History and Memory

Listed in: First Year Seminar, as FYSE-105


Robert T. Hayashi (Section 01)


Americans are at war over history. While scholars continue to produce new interpretations and consider additional sources of historical knowledge, others in American society seek to revise the established historical record and assert in the public sphere and in classrooms their interpretations of history. Monuments and schoolboard meetings are sites of sometimes acrimonious contestations over what happened in the past and how Americans should remember it. We will study such debates and consider the range of sources of historical knowledge—from government records, photographs, graphic novels, to films—that influence our understanding of history, how we remember. We will explore how individuals, families, communities, and nations record and recall the past by studying a range of written and visual representations of American slavery, the Armenian genocide, Japanese American incarceration, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Covid pandemic. We will pay particular attention to how with these events impacted and were recalled at Amherst College and the local region. How have individuals and groups wrestled with the challenges of recording and remembering these events, including their sometimes conflicting memories? Students will conduct independent research on a related topic of their choosing.

How to handle overenrollment: null

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: the course will be heavily discussion-oriented with students required to participate in and facilitate class discussion. The course work will include short essay assignments and a major research project on a topic chosen by students. The course promotes critical reading skills, writing, and interdisciplinary scholarship and inquiry.

Course Materials


Other years: Offered in Fall 2023, Fall 2024